Believe it or not, writing letters (or in my case, an email) can help you resolve issues and (sometimes) even get free service or merchandise. I think this is something that many of us have forgotten (or maybe never learned about?).
I know I had forgotten about this “trick” until a couple of weeks ago. It was a rainy, lazy Saturday. My spouse and I were lounging, the TV was tuned in to a channel playing an old movie called “Summer School” (starring Mark Harmon). Neither of us was paying much attention to it, but then Mr. Harmon decided to teach his students about how to get free stuff by writing letters.
I watched that segment and remembered my own grade school teacher doing the same thing as she tried to teach us how to format a written letter. That’s when the light bulb went off in my head. I turned to my spouse and he had that same look of “Duh…why didn’t we think of that?” on his face.
We had been having difficulty with one of our PC’s and all our calls, texts, and IM’s to the vendor’s customer support people had been less than satisfactory. We were at that point of scrapping the unit and buying something new—a decision that was galling since the malfunctioning PC wasn’t that old, when this movie sparked another option in our minds.
We turned off the movie and went online. We scoured the vendor’s website and the vendor’s LinkedIn pages until we found the email addresses for the VP of Customer Relations, the VP of Customer Support, and the CTO of the company. Feeling much more empowered now, we followed these four simple steps to make our case:
- Use a Business Name and Address.
If you don’t have a business email account, create one—it’s not that difficult. Using a business name and address will garner more attention than a plain consumer name and address will. It may not be fair, but it’s the truth. After all, the people you’re writing to don’t know the size of your company, and while no one likes to lose a single customer, they really don’t like to take a chance on losing a company that may have hundreds or even thousands of employees.
- Briefly Explain the Issue.
The key to making the letter or email work for you, is your attention to detail. In two or three sentences explain the problem. Include the name of the service or product (provide serial or model numbers), the date of purchase, and what you have done to rectify or correct the issue (including dates, names of people you spoke with, and any costs incurred buying parts or alternate services).
- Provide Your Resolution Expectations
Tell the recipient what you expect from them in terms of resolving your issue (you want your money back, you want a replacement unit, or you simply want them to correct the way they respond to people with similar issues). Give them a date by which you want this resolution to occur and let them know that if you aren’t satisfied or if they fail to meet your expectations, you will notify the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Protection Agency.
- Provide Contact Information
Before signing off, let them know where they can contact you. Give them your address, phone, and email. Then sign it with a business title (such as Senior Buyer, CFO, or Manager of Large Purchases—anyone who manages their home and purchases, qualifies for any of these titles).
The key is to include as many details as you can while being polite, stern, and straightforward about your expectations. Don’t rant, rave, or be unrealistic in what you want them to do—do you want a refund, an exchange, or do you simply want them to know that you will never buy anything from them again? Whatever it is, let them know.
And, since most companies don’t want to lose customers, you might be surprised at the discounts, freebies, or services they might offer you to stay with them (by threatening to leave our cable provider, we got free HBO for a year).
And you can, too…if you take the time to write this type of letter or email.